Senate Democrats Unveil Budget Proposals on Public Safety & Mental Health

A series of recommendations to improve public safety by enhancing mental health care within the state's criminal justice system and reducing recidivism among mentally ill offenders is being proposed by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and the Senate Democratic Caucus. The policy and budget proposals are guided by a new study conducted by Stanford Law School's Three Strikes Project, which finds that three modest yet significant policy changes can help ameliorate the enormous human and fiscal cost of warehousing the mentally ill in California prisons.

The study, entitled "When did Prisons Become Acceptable Mental Healthcare Facilities?" is co-authored by Senator Steinberg, Stanford Law Professor David Mills and Three Strikes Project Director Michael Romano.

The Stanford Law School Three Strikes Project report focuses on how California prisons have become de facto mental health facilities, at a fiscal and moral cost much greater than if the state were to provide adequate treatment and support. The report concludes that establishing three key priorities can "start us on the path of compassionate, fair and cost-effective solutions to the crisis we face."

Based upon those recommendations, Senate Democrats propose several policy and budget proposals:

Reforming Sentencing of the Mentally Ill:

Collaborative Courts
Establish a competitive grant program to expand the number of Mental Health and Behavioral Health Courts in California to specifically address the needs of mentally ill and drug addicted offenders. $20 million from the Recidivism Reduction Fund.

Re-establish the Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grant (MIOCR) Program
Re-establish MIOCR Grant program that supports implementation and evaluation of locally developed projects designed to reduce recidivism among persons with mental illness. $50 million from the Recidivism Reduction Fund.

Provide Meaningful Mental Health Treatment:

Training of Frontline Law Enforcement
Redirect $12 million GF for local police departments and use those funds to support innovative police training to enhance officer competency and safety in dealing with members of the public who are mentally ill, substance abusers or homeless. $12 million General Fund.

Training of Prison Personnel
Insuring correctional officers, mental health staff, and health care staff in prisons have the necessary training to work with a growing mental health population in our prisons. $24 million General Fund for 16 additional hours of training to CDCR, mental health, and health care staff in prisons.

Expand Substance Abuse Treatment
Adopt Administration proposal expanding substance abuse treatment to 10 institutions that currently do not have a reentry hubs. $11.8 million General Fund

Mental Health Parity
Increase staff in the Department of Managed Health Care and Department of Insurance to work on mental health parity enforcement and meet federal enforcement regulations. No impact on General Fund, new staff paid by fees on insurance plans

Reentry for Offenders with a Mental Health Diagnoses (Administration Proposal)
Expand reentry programs to include mentally ill offenders, including continuity of treatment for those released to parole, Post-Release Community Supervision (PRCS), and for those offenders who violate conditions of supervision where the court deems they will benefit from a facility providing remedial sanctions. $25 million from the Recidivism Reduction Fund.

Integrated Services for Mentally Ill Parolees (ISMIP)
Support Administration proposal to fund the ISMIP Program that provides an array of mental health treatment and crisis care services to facilitate independent living in the least restrictive environment possible. Support May Revise funding of $11.8 million from the Recidivism Reduction Fund.

Humane Releases:

Parole Out-Patient Clinics (POC) Case Managers
Maintain 21 social worker positions from Parole Outpatient Clinics, converting them to positions for case managers for parolees with mental illness. Case managers would ensure parolees are connected and enrolled in necessary mental health and substance abuse treatment, and work with parole and supervising agents in treatment plan development. $20 million from the Recidivism Reduction Fund.

Prop. 36 Offenders to Receive State Services
Subject to availability, provide services including transitional housing, mental health, and substance abuse treatment to offenders released under Proposition 36 who are not subject to parole or Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS). No additional cost to the state.


(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)